Once I had my procrastination in check, I really needed some effective techniques to manage my time. I had a full time masters course, freelance work and MBA entrances to study for. I need something simple yet efficient in producing the results. It had to be a system which wasn’t very time consuming (defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?) and I came across these :
- Eissenhower’s Matrix
In order to use this technique, you should know the difference between what is important and not important; and what is urgent and what is not urgent. This matrix helps you to prioritise tasks according to urgency as well as importance. Urgent tasks are those tasks which need to be done immediately whereas important tasks are those tasks which require attention and helps to reach our goals and if they aren’t done, it may have serious repercussions. It is a 2x2 matrix which is used to prioritise your time for the tasks.
|Quadrant 1:High Importance +High Urgency TasksThese are the tasks which are to be dealt with at first.
For example: Studying for an exam tomorrow is both Important as well as Urgent (Do the tasks immediately)
|Quadrant 2:High Importance +Low Urgency TasksThese are the tasks that are to be dealt once the tasks in quadrant 1 are finished or managed
For example: working on a report due after a week is definitely important but not necessarily urgent. (Schedule the tasks for later)
|Quadrant 3:Low Importance +High Urgency TasksThese tasks are best dealt with when tasks of Quadrant 1 and 2 are accomplished.
For Example: Answering a ringing phone maybe urgent but it’s not important when you’re studying or working and can be dealt with later if need be. (Do the tasks later if need be)
|Quadrant 4:Low Importance +Low Urgency TasksThese tasks are the distractor tasks. Even if the tasks in quadrant in 1, 2 and 3 are accomplished, the tasks in this quadrant shouldn’t be dealt with.
For example: Checking memes first thing in the morning. (Don’t do these tasks)
Make a list of all your tasks for a week or a month and review the urgency and the importance status. Review the list regularly as what may not be urgent and/or important this week may become urgent and/or important the next week. This works best when you don’t collect a lot of tasks on each quadrant; limit your task list to not more than 7-10 in each quadrant.
This technique really, really helped me to learn how to prioritise my work. I never ended up doing unnecessary work first and end up having no time left for what is important. And it is so easy to do!
- Bullet Journal
Bullet journal is an organising system which helps you to organise ALL aspects of your life. I swear by this method! It is an all in one kind of system so you never have to look for lists and reminders in different books or fall in a trap of messy sticky notes system. As the name suggests, this method of journaling is done by using bullets. Each bullet represents the nature of the task. Although mostly journals are for recording the past events of our life, this method of journaling is for scheduling present and future tasks. All that you need to start with this is a notebook of your choice (I would recommend a one with gridded paper or squared paper) and a pen and then follow these steps:
- Make an index page. This will help you to find your task list and other collection with ease. Also number your pages.
- Determine the nature of each bullets. You can use a simple dot for tasks, a triangle for deadlines, a round bullet for important dates and so and so forth.
- Your next two pages after the index would be the future log. This is for recording all the important dates and tasks for the months which are yet to come.
- Next on the left page, write the name of the month you’re beginning with and vertically write all the dates corresponding with their days. (use the first letter of each day). Once you’ve done that write all the important things that you come across for that month. For example, if you have a report submission on 15th of the month, write that and fill it up as and when you get more information about your month.
- On the next right page, again write the name of the month and then fill this page with all the tasks and things you have to do this month.
- On the next page begins your daily log. Write the date and the day each day and fill up the tasks that you have for the day. You can do this everyday before you start work or the previous night. Follow the steps (d) and (e) at the end of each month.
- You can use signifiers for your tasks to know the progress or the importance of each task. For example, asterisk for a task which is important, exclamation for deadlines, etc. To monitor the progress use different signifiers. Such as a half cross on the dot (which signifies your task) for the tasks that have been started and are in progress, full cross for tasks that have been completed and strike off the tasks which are no longer relevant.
This system of recording and scheduling has completely changed my life. I never miss any deadline, I am always finishing work before time, and I NEVER miss anyone’s birthday or any other important dates! It increases your productivity ten folds if done correctly and regularly.
Other important thing to remember while managing your time is how you SET YOUR GOALS. Another major flaw in designing our schedule is our lack of perception towards our goals. We often tend to either underestimate them or overestimate them. We don’t even clearly define goals. For example, when someone says ‘I want to lose 5 kgs’, this is not a goal, it is just a wish. For a wish to be a goal, it requires to have the following 5 components:
- Specificity: the goal has to be as specific as possible
- Measurable: the goals should be quantifiable so you can track your progress on the same.
- Attainable: unattainable goals are the goals for which you may not have specific skill set to achieve these goals. To make these goals attainable, identify the skills, abilities, competencies required to achieve them.
- Realistic: having unrealistic goals is just a waste of your time. For example, don’t frame goals like I will finish solving an entire mathematics book in a day with 100% accuracy. It may not only be unrealistic but also that you’re putting undue pressure on yourself and this may prove to be demotivating.
- Timely: a goal without a target time period is just wishful thinking. When there is a time frame involved you can track the progress, you know it is urgent and you will work for it.
Other tools that you can use to manage your time are: Google Calendar, Pareto Analysis, Getting things done by David Allen. But the ones mentioned previously are the ones I’ve tried and tested personally and they work like a charm.
Let us know if these techniques helped you to manage your time or if you have any other methods of managing your time effectively.
About the Author
Nidhi Malkan has studied psychology for 7 years with a specialisation in Industrial Psychology. She has conducted various training programs on Soft Skills and Grooming for students across all streams. She is currently working as a Product Manager – Content Strategist at InsideIIM.com. When she’s not working she is reading.
You can read Why You Should Manage Your Time -Time Management (Part 1) here.
You can read How To Avoid Procrastination- Time Management (Part 2) here.